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Responsibilities of the President, Foreign Policy

executive agreements, new governments, summit meetings, executive departments, congressional approval

In addition to authority as head of the many executive departments and agencies, the president also has primary responsibility for making foreign policy. The Constitution established the president as commander of the armed forces and gave the president the authority to make treaties “with the Advice and Consent” of Congress. As a result, both Congress and the courts have generally supported energetic presidential action in the area of foreign policy. The president has the power to recognize new governments, to attend summit meetings with the heads of other nations, and to make executive agreements with foreign governments. Executive agreements have the force of law, but unlike treaties, they do not require congressional approval. Most Americans consider it in their best interests to allow the president some freedom of action in foreign affairs, recognizing that the president may be required to respond quickly to international challenges.

In conducting foreign policy, the president is helped by professionals at the State and Defense departments, by the National Security Council, by foreign affairs advisers in the White House, and by experts in the NSA and the CIA. In fact, one of the reasons that the president has dominated the direction of foreign policy in the late 20th century has been this access to superior intelligence information, which allows the president to make rapid and informed decisions.

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